Best Mountain Bike Jackets – A Buyer’s Guide

testing the best mountain bike jackets on Bellingham trails

The best jacket for mountain biking varies based on the conditions, and here are my favorite options for pretty much anything. Some are great for rainy days, some just for cold days, and others for stashing away to fend off a breeze or light mist.

These are the best MTB jackets I’ve tested…but notice there is no “Best Overall” because, well, there isn’t. Some are warmer than others, some more waterproof but overkill for general riding, and some not quite waterproof enough but great for most days that you’d even want a jacket for.

Each has its own unique features; use my notes below to find the ones that appeal to you. For reference, I’m 6’2″ and moderately muscular but very lean. With a few exceptions (noted in review) all jackets tested are XL.

Best All Purpose – Ornot Trail Magic Shell

ornot magic shell gravel jacket is the perfect waterproof mountain bike soft shell jacket

The Ornot Trail Magic Jacket is a great mountain bike jacket. While some others are better at a particular thing, this one is really good at all the things. It’s waterproof, windproof, incredibly breathable, warm, and fully featured. As long as you’re not constantly riding in the rain, you should probably buy this.

The Polartec NeoShell material is impermeable yet highly breathable, with bonded and taped seams to prevent ingress between panels. Although this one appears to wet out easily, the water isn’t getting inside the jacket.

As such, this is a great general purpose jacket if you’re not routinely or intentionally riding in rain. Their original Magic Shell jacket has kept me dry in sideways sleet and freezing rain for hours, but the exterior will wet out, at which point it will not keep you as warm. (see FAQ at bottom for explanation)

closeup details and interior of the ornot magic shell gravel and mountain bike jacket
Click any image to enlarge.

It comes with a removable Polartec Alpha Direct vest, which adds a lot of core warmth. A full-width rear zip pocket holds snacks, your phone, a beanie, and the vest if you get too warm.

The Trail Magic’s fit is just right…not too tight, not too baggy, and looks great out on the town, too. It stretches and moves easily and quietly. If you’re worried about getting it dirty, go for black.

Features & Specs

  • Colors – Men’s: Gray, Black
  • Colors – Women’s: Gray, Black
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Fit: Men’s
  • Hood: Yes, fits over helmet
  • Other Features: Reflective hits, zippered hand warmer pockets, two-way zipper, PFAS-free DWR coating, bluesign-approved fabric
  • MSRP: $384

PROS: Ultra comfortable, warm, and effective; makes a great all-around jacket, too; includes Polartec Alpha vest
CONS: Ex-pen-sive; hood gets a little snug when pulled over some helmets; no women’s version yet
BUY IT IF… You want one jacket that does everything well but don’t usually ride in full rain

Best Rain Jacket – Endura MT Waterproof Jacket II

endura mt500 waterproof mountain bike jacket review

Layering a PFC/flourine-free waterproof laminate between a tough outer shell and wicking mesh interior, plus stretch panels where needed, the Endura MT500 Waterproof Jacket II is a hardshell rain jacket that moves like a softshell.

Designed for the wettest, muckiest conditions, it’s breathable enough, but adds huge front and under arm vents…which is good. It’s warm for a rain shell…I wore a basic long sleeve MTB jersey under it on a 45º day and used the vents to manage temps between climbing and descending.

endura mt500 waterproof mountain bike jacket review

I love that it doesn’t feel or sound crunchy like some hardshells, but shrugs off branches and scuffs just as well as the ExoShell40DR material w/ eco-friendly DWR treatment shrugs off water.

I also love that I can zip it all the way up and it sits just in front of my chin, maintaining fully head mobility while blocking wind and rain, and it’s easy to pull the hood over my helmet and cinch it down. Silicone shoulder strips keep a pack in place.

Two notes on fit: Endura jackets run big, so I wore a Large – sleeve length and fit were perfect. But, layering it over the MT500 Freezing Point jacket below, I felt like a stuffed sausage…so if you run thick, puffy layers underneath, you’ll want to size up this outer shell to make room.

Features & Specs

  • Colors – Men’s: Black, Bottle Green, Electric Blue
  • Colors – Women’s: Black, Cayenne, Nutmeg, Spruce Green
  • Sizes: XS-XXXL
  • Fit: Men’s & Women’s versions
  • Hood: Yes, fits over helmet
  • Other Features: Lift pass pocket on sleeve, internal security pocket, Velcro wrist cuff adjustments, reflective hits
  • MSRP: $329

PROS: Perfect MTB fit, extremely waterproof, great vents
CONS: Some colors only available in certain markets
BUY IT IF… You regularly ride in the rain and cold

Warmest MTB Jacket – Endura MT500 Freezing Point II

endura mt500 freezing point jacket II review

The Endura MT500 Freezing Point II is super warm, so the long front and underarm vent zips are welcome. I’ve worn this in freezing temps with nothing more than a thin, long-sleeve wool base layer underneath and still needed to vent it.

A combination of PrimaLoft Gold insulation (sleeves, hood, and front), PrimaLoft inner face (backs, lower sleeves), and a 4-way stretch thermal softshell outer provides toasty warmth that moves with you. It never felt restrictive.

endura mt500 freezing point jacket II review

The outer has a PFC-free water repellent finish, and it’s reasonably breathable. The two front vents double as a zippered hand warmer pockets. The pit zips extend far down and back, giving hot air somewhere to escape even with a pack on.

Grippers on the shoulders work very well to keep hydration packs from sliding around. The jacket zips up high to block wind, but with a generous neck opening that keeps it comfortable with the hood up or down.

This is my go-to jacket on really cold rides. Endura jackets run a bit big, so I wore a size Large.

Features & Specs

  • Colors – Men’s: Black, Electric Blue, Java
  • Colors – Women’s: Black, Deep Teal, Paprika
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Fit: Men’s & Women’s versions
  • Hood: Yes, fits over helmet
  • Other Features: Reflective trim, slight drop tail, arm cuff makes a great nosewipe, interior security pocket
  • MSRP: $199

PROS: Super warm and comfy, perfect cycling fit and stretch
CONS: Not fully waterproof
BUY IT IF… You really don’t like being cold

Best Mid-Warmth – Giro Cascade Insulated Jacket

giro cascade insulated cycling jacket review

Not specifically for mountain biking, the Giro Cascade Insulated Jacket is slim enough to work for gravel, too. Or as a base layer without needing to upsize the rain shell going over it.

The slim Polartec Alpha insulation provides surprising warmth without bulk. I wore it with a LS baselayer on rides in 40ºF to 50ºF temps and it was perfect. The insulation is focused on the front panel and sleeves, with an un-insulated back panel for better breathability…especially under a pack.

giro cascade soft shell cycling jacket for gravel and mountain biking

It’s wind resistant with a PFC-free DWR treatment, definitely aimed at dry conditions. The stretchy softshell design makes it super comfortable in the riding position and just hanging out afterward.

A soft collar liner and zipper garage keep it comfy around the neck, zipping up just snug enough to maintain warmth, but still comfortable and easy to move in. The Vermillion orange is a great safety feature for backwoods riding, too, just in case of hunters. Also available as a vest.

Fit note: Being a multi-discipline piece, the torso is bit shorter than others, leaving Giro’s Roust LS Wind Jersey sticking out the bottom.

Features & Specs

  • Colors – Men’s: Black, Light Trail Green, Vermillion
  • Colors – Women’s: Black, Light Trail Green, Vermillion
  • Sizes: S-XXL
  • Fit: Men’s & Women’s versions
  • Hood: No
  • Other Features: Renew 50% recycled materials, 2-way front zip, rear zippered storage pocket, reflective hits, zippered hand warmer pockets
  • MSRP: $250 jacket, $200 vest

PROS: Slim and packable, surprisingly warm for its size, great base layer under a rain shell on cold and wet days, wind guard behind zipper
CONS: Not the toughest exterior material
BUY IT IF… You want lightweight warmth with a fitted cut

Best Wind Jacket – Gore Lupra Jacket

gore Lupra mountain bike jacket review

The Gore Lupra is an odd bird, but I (mostly) love it thanks to several smart, mountain-bike specific features. It’s also incredibly soft and comfortable, moves fluidly on the bike, and easily stuffs into a pack.

Pockets above the waist keep them accessible over a hydration pack’s waist belt. The hood fits over a helmet, has three adjustment points, and a gripper panel under the front helps it stick to and move with your helmet as you turn your head…no more blind spots!

Gore Lupra mountain bike jacket features and details

Most of the front and upper arms are Gore-Tex Infinium, which is windproof and water resistant. But the back, forearms, underarms, and waist are a quick-drying stretch mesh that’s more breathable. As a wind shell, that’s awesome. Wrist cuffs are angled and snug, and the soft material there is extremely comfortable, even for wiping your nose.

But, on a couple rides with light rain, my forearms got soaked and then cold from the wind, which was weird. So I don’t recommend this as a rain jacket, but a light mist is no problem.

Fit is a bit looser and baggier than the others, making it a good option for larger riders. But it’s not too baggy, and unlike wispy wind jackets, this one has enough structure not to flap noisily. And, it actually provides a bit of warmth. Big reflective patches on the arms make it a good commuter jacket, too.

Features & Specs

  • Colors – Men’s: Purple, Green, Sand, Black
  • Colors – Women’s: Purple, Green, Sand, Black
  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Fit: Men’s & Women’s versions
  • Hood: Yes, over the helmet
  • Other Features: Zippered hand packets, reflective hits, zippered hand warmer pockets
  • MSRP: $200

PROS: Good waist and tail coverage, even if not waterproof; dries quickly, excellent helmet-friendly hood, warm for a windbreaker
CONS: Only partially water-resistant
BUY IT IF… You want a warmer windbreaker with a bit of water repellancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

dropped tail on the endura MT500 waterproof mountain bike jacket

What’s difference between road & MTB jackets?

Road cycling jackets are cut much slimmer to be more aerodynamic, and the front is shorter to prevent bunching when you’re bent over in the riding position.

Since mountain bikers move around a lot more, aren’t as worried about aerodynamics, and want more coverage, our jackets tend to be a bit longer and looser. Most stop before becoming “baggy”, but they’re designed to move with us as we work the bike through technical terrain.

Road jackets sometimes have rear pockets, just like on a jersey, or a passthrough slot to reach your jersey pockets.

Since mountain bikers tend to wear backpacks or hip packs, MTB jackets don’t usually have those rear pockets. But they get handwarmer pockets instead, which are great for all of our casual stops and keeping our phones handy.

That said, if you’re wearing full lycra for an XC rip, definitely go for a more fitted road or gravel jacket.

testing the best mountain bike jackets in the PNW trails in Oregon and Washington
The PNW’s rainforests have world class trails…as long as you don’t mind getting muddy.

Why do I need a rain jacket, shouldn’t we stay off the trails when they’re wet?

Depends on where you live. In the Southeast US? Absolutely stay off the trails after a rain, you’ll tear them up and leave deep ruts.

But in the Pacific Northwest and the UK, if you don’t ride when it rains, you’re probably not riding at all. Those trails and the loam, dirt, and granite they’re built on can handle it just fine.

The type of rain jacket you need is up to the conditions. If there’s a small chance of getting caught in a drizzle, you may not need much. But if you’re heading out in the rain, afternoon thunderstorms are a thing, or it’s a cold rain that could chill you to the core, then a heavy-duty rain jacket is in order.

Why are these mountain bike jackets so expensive?

Short answer: You get what you pay for.

Have you ever bought snow pants at Wal-Mart only to come indoors 20 minutes later because they’re soaked through?

Good quality jackets from reputable brands using premium materials cost more money. The design R&D and experience plays into that, too.

And then there’s volume. North Face probably makes 100x to 1000x as many “winter jackets” as Endura makes cycling jackets. But Endura’s peeps ride MTB all day, every day, so they know how to make a sport-specific jacket that’ll make our lives better on the trail.

If all you care about is staying dry or blocking wind, a garbage bag with some holes in it will do the trick. Or move up to a cheap jacket. But if you want something that enhances your ride and will last for years, it’s going to cost a bit more up front.

What is Polartec Alpha?

In 2022, Polartec Alpha became the “it” material for insulation. It’s lightweight, usually applied in an oversized waffle-knit style to create air pockets and breathability gaps, and it works incredibly well.

You’ll likely see it lining many jackets from many brands because it lives up to the hype.

What is “wetting out”?

Some jackets will roll water off like a duck’s back. Others have a fabric outer shell with a waterproof laminate behind it. In that case, water can soak the outer fabric even if it’s not getting all the way through to your skin.

When that outer fabric appears wet (because it is), that’s called “wetting out”. It often makes it look like a “waterproof” jacket isn’t doing its job, but it all depends on the laminate layer underneath.

A good DWR coating can delay the onset of wetting out, but those eventually wear off, and then it’s up to any laminate layers (GoreTex, NeoShell, etc.) to block the water.

So, if it’s cold and wet out, a damp outer fabric layer can make the jacket feel very cold as the exterior moisture evaporates. If your skin is directly against the jacket, you may feel that wind chill, which might make it “feel” wet inside. Just wear a thick enough baselayer to properly insulate you.

This is why I don’t recommend the Ornot Trail Magic jacket as a pure rain coat. If you’re routinely riding in the rain, a hardshell like the Endura MT500 Waterproof Jacket is the best bet.

Side Note: Only the Gore ShakeDry material (which, sadly, has been discontinued) put the waterproof laminate on the exterior, making them the only jackets I’ve ever seen that would never get wet or hold any moisture at all.

Are there any other MTB jackets you’d recommend?

I’m always testing new jackets, but out of the nearly full closet rack jackets that I own, these are the best currently available mountain bike jackets I’ve tried.

There are probably plenty good ones out there that I haven’t tried, too, so ask your friends. But I won’t recommend anything here that I haven’t personally tested for a reasonable amount of time. As I test new jackets on the trail, I’ll update this post with the winners.

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